A White House aide with strong anti-immigration views has been selected for a top State Department post overseeing refugee admissions.
Andrew Veprek was appointed as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migrations, according to Politico. The bureau aims to provide “aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people… through repatriation, local integration and resettlement in the United States.” But current and former administration officials say Veprek has parroted the hardline views of senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who believes U.S. immigration policies should be severely restricted.
Veprek, a Foreign Service officer detailed to the White House, was influential in the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from international talks to create a non-binding global pact on migration issues in December. During his time in the White House, Veprek worked closely with Miller, Politico reported.
“My experience is that he strongly believes that fewer refugees should be admitted into the United States and that international migration is something to be stopped, not managed,” a former U.S. official told Politico. The official added that Veprek was so impassioned about cutting down the number of refugees and migrants that he almost seemed “vindictive.”
This isn’t the first time the Trump administration has tapped someone with extreme anti-immigration views for a migration post. In February, Trump nominated Ken Isaacs for the director general post of the UN’s International Organization for Migration, which spends nearly $1 billion annually assisting migrants around the world.
Isaacs has a history of making disparaging remarks about Muslims and refugees on social media: in 2015, for instance, he tweeted that Christian Syrians should be the first refugee priority. After the terrorist attacks in London in June 2017, Isaac wrote that the attacks “[are] exactly what the Muslims faith instructs the faithful to do.”
The Trump administration has drastically cut down on its refugee programs previously enhanced by the Obama administration. According to a February report by Reuters, the State Department has slated 20 refugee resettlement offices for closure across the U.S., following Trump’s decision to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the country from 110,000 to 45,000.
The administration is also proposing drastically scaling back the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which aims to help countries around the world with developmental assistance, food aid and human rights promotion — in other words, promoting the conditions that would ensure less refugees fleeing their homelands. The new budget proposal is asking for cuts of around 25 percent or $13.8 billion to the State Department’s overall budget, with $1.6 billion of cuts to USAID.
While it has little chance of passing Congress, the White House budget proposal is nonetheless reflective of the Trump administration’s mindset — one in which helping refugees and advocating for human rights is pushed back in favor of more military investment.
“This budget focuses resources on national security at home and abroad, on economic development that contributes to the growth of our economy,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. “It requests the resources necessary to advance peace and security, and respond to global crises, while prioritizing the efficient use of taxpayer resources.”